The Princess and Curdie
The wise woman speaks to Curdie:
"All men, if they do not take care, go downhill to the animal's country; many men are actually, all their lives, going to be beasts. People knew it once, but it is long since they forgot it."
"I am not surprised to hear it, ma'am, when I think of some of our miners."
"Ah! But you must beware, Curdie, how you say of this man or that man that he is travelling beastward. There are not nearly so many going that way as at first sight you might think. When you met your father on the hill tonight, you stood and spoke together on the same spot; and although one of you was going up and the other coming down, at a little distance no one could have told which was bound in the one direction and which in the other. Just so two people may be at the same spot in manners and behaviour, and yet one may be getting better and the other worse, which is just the greatest of all differences that could possible exist between them."
Later, the wise woman speaks to Curdie's father:
"Yes," she went on, "you have got to thank me that you are so poor, Peter. I have seen to that, and it has done well for both you and me, my friend. Things come to the poor that can't get in at the door of the rich. Their money somehow blocks it up. It is a great privilege to be poor, Peter - one that no man ever coveted, and but a very few have sought to retain, but one that yet many have learned to prize. You must not mistake, however, and imagine it a virtue; it is but a privilege, and one also that, like other privileges, may be terribly misused. Had you been rich, my Peter, you would not have been so good as some rich men I know."
The Gifts of the Child Christ - stories and fairy tales by George MacDonald.
The description of the protagonist in The Butcher's Bills reflects my life in too many ways:
"What his special business was I do not know. He went to the city by the eight o'clock omnibus every morning, dived into a court, entered a little square, rushed up two flights of stairs to a couple of rooms, and sat down in the back one before an office table on a hair-seated chair. It was a dingy place - not so dirty as it looked, I daresay. Even the windows, being of bad glass, did, I believe, look dirtier than they were. It was a place where, so far as the eye of an outsider could tell, much or nothing might be doing."
Posted 3/20/2005 at 10:39 PM